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A Note from Principal Tony Byers: November 2018

Dear Families,

Your child’s teacher should be contacting you soon to schedule a family-teacher conference during the month of November. We have two conferences a year; the first one is in November and the second one is in the spring. Both conferences are critically important for you to attend. It’s your chance to hear directly from your child’s teacher (and sometimes your child) about his or her progress in school. But more importantly, it’s also a time for conversation. Our conferences are a two-way exchange where you can ask questions and explore together how best to support your child’s academic and social development at school and at home. However, it’s important to acknowledge the greatest barrier to a successful family-teacher conference: time. Some teachers have 24 conferences to conduct, which means each conference is brief, usually about 20 minutes. So it’s best to come prepared.

Last week, Lauren Morse, our Family Liaison, and Debra Gadsden-Holiday, our Early Literacy Interventionist, and longtime 1/2 classroom teacher, gave a Family Coffee Talk on Partnering with School to Support your Child’s Learning. During the talk, they outlined ways to prepare for a successful family-teacher conference. For those who could not attend, here are some things they shared:

Setting the stage

Your child will thrive when everyone approaches the home-school relationship as a partnership. We are in this together, for the benefit of your child and the whole community. Our partnership will take work! It’s a two way street. We have a shared responsibility to communicate, listen, and follow through. We must also learn from each other. You are the expert in your child. Teachers are experts in how children learn at school. Our combined expertise will set students up for success. But to form an effective partnership, we must respect each other’s expertise, assume positive intentions, and actively listen, even when we initially disagree.

The conference

Although the style of conference will vary, you should expect your child’s teacher to provide an overview of his or her academic, social, and emotional development. They’ll show you examples of your child’s work. And your child’s teacher will voice any concerns they might have and work with you to set goals for the remainder of the year. In addition, they’ll expect you to share important information about your child and voice any concerns you might have about their learning or social development. There should be some time for conversation and problem solving, if necessary. All of this in twenty minutes! It’s a lot to expect, but doable if everyone at the table comes prepared.

Getting the most out of your 20 minutes 

Be on time for your conference! Or better yet, arrive early. Conferences are often scheduled back-to-back. Talk to your child first. Ask them questions about their experience of school. What academic subjects are challenging for them and why? Where do they think they have to grow? What are their goals in school? Is there anything they’d like you to share with their teacher? And importantly, write down two or three questions you’d like to ask. This is important because you’re going to hear so much new information that you’re likely to forget questions you had prior to the conference.

After the conference

If a plan was created at your child’s conference, follow up and follow through. And stay in touch! We believe in open and ongoing communication. You don’t have to wait until conferences to ask questions or raise concerns about your child’s learning. But always remember, your child’s teacher plans, on average, seven lessons a day, reviews stacks of student work, and corresponds with almost two dozens families, all after a day of managing twenty delightful, but very energetic little souls. Your child’s teacher is extremely busy and rather tired by the end of the week. So, if you find yourself writing a 10-paragraph email, you might consider scheduling a phone or in-person conversation instead. And it’s always a good idea to ask your child’s teacher what form of communication they prefer.

Keep these tips in mind, and you’re sure to have a productive family-teacher conference. Our teachers are looking forward to meeting with you this month.

Best,

Tony